Saturday, September 04, 2010

Shortstack Play in Low Buy In Tournaments

So after a horrific run of cards in the last couple of weeks which really sapped my confidence after I ran so well in July, I took a break. I took about a week off and just reviewed some poker books and tried to watch some Cardrunners videos. I don't know if I learned anything, but it at least cleared my head.

Friday was the day before a long holiday weekend. Usually that means that my office is cleared out and I can't get a hold of any of my clients on the phone. With that in mind, I decided to play the afternoon tournament at Casino Arizona. The total buy in was $85 for 3500 chips. There were 138 players.

I have gone over the structure before in this blog, and it basically is very fast. I decided to keep track this time on how many hands I get in a level. It's a grand total of 11 hands for every 20 minute level. So waiting around for a good starting hand is not a strategy that will allow you to win the whole thing.

The one twist that I had failed to consider in the past is that after you get past the second break, they do stretch out the levels to 30 minutes. That does help things a little bit.

My main dilemna is this: When you have 10-15 BB in your stack and 1/2 of your table has 8 BB or less, should I be raising all in or just 2.5X the blinds?

Reasons for Small Raises:
a. I can fold to a reraise
b. If I raise in early position and someone reraises and there's another raise (meaning AA or KK) I can get away cheap.
c. I can make a smaller continuation bet on the flop if I get called
d. The players don't get as angry and don't spite call as fast

Reasons for Large Raises:
a. You don't get called as much. This is good, because risk-free chips are always good in this tournament
b. If you are called it is usually just one person. Raising 2.5x the blind can lead to multiple callers and big pots out of position
c. The pots are bigger when you win after getting called
d. You take away the possibility of someone bluffing you out of a pot

The best reason for large raises is b. winning more money when you are called. It is easy to go from 10BB to 21 BB when you get called with a worse hand or suck out. A 20 BB stack in the late stages of these tournaments is huge. The problem is that you will have everyone else covered and the effective stacks of your opponents will still be 10BB or fewer. There is not going to be much post flop play when everyone is this short.

Yesterday I got lucky on a couple of key hands that kept me healthy. One one hand, I open raised from the button against an opponent who had 8 BB left. I raised 3x the blind with 56s. She moved all in with Ace-King. I hit a 5 on the turn and she failed to improve. Later when I was short with 10 BB I moved all in with A6s in late position and was called by Ace-King again. Once again I hit the 6.

I really advanced through most of the tournament stealing blinds and getting lucky on those two hands. I never had Aces. I had Kings once and chopped the pot with another player who also had Kings. I did win a big pot with Ace-King when a tight player decided to go crazy with 2nd pair.

The problem was once again I was between 5 and 8 BB for most of the bubble. From about 27 players down to 15, I did barely enough to survive. I just felt like I didn't have enough chips to get people to lay down the medium strength hands. Especially the other short stacks who I thought would be looking to get it in and double up. Instead it seemed like everyone played really tight, especially the short stacks. I need to get better at figuring out who is doing this and abuse the hell out of them. The goal should be to win enough chips that when I do eventually get called, I am not all in and can survive, or get lucky and win a huge pot.

There were two hands at the final table that I wish had to play over again. They were both close decisions, but if you look at the results, it could have propelled me to a win.

The previous hand, there were two players with short stacks all in and the player to my right showed me his hand of 55 before he mucked. I thought that was a mistake because I felt sure that the first raiser had over cards and the second player thought hard before he made his move which made me think the had another Ace-X type of hand. I turned out to be right and to make matters worse for this player he would have flopped 3 of a kind.

The very next hand, there is a raise and then a reraise all in. The player who reraised all in had just lost the previous hand when his AK had been drawn out by AQ. So this might be a steam raise, but he had also been playing very tight. I look down at two 8's. I only have 6x the blind left so I should be gambling. But everyone else is short too. I decide to lay it down and wait for a spot where I can be the first one in the pot or a stronger hand. Sure enough the other two players see the flop and it has an 8. I could have tripled up!

The next hand after this, a short stack moves all in and I have A-8 offsuit. I think about calling. But I muck. Someone else calls with a low pocket pair. The flop has two Aces and I could have done it again.

I eventually went out in 5th place when I open raised my K-T and got called by Ace-Queen. I missed and collected $515. Not a bad day's work. I really think I can win one of these.

No comments: